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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

National Power and the Merchant Fleet

In light of the excellent Midrats show Sal and Claude had with John Konrad, I am re-posting a piece on the size of the useful American shipping industry, which readers of Mahan know, and which the Chinese have followed, is key to international strength and a reason for a strong navy.

First, the episode:



My original post



As of 15 March 2019, the inventory of U.S. flagged merchant ships of "over 1000 gross tons that carry cargo from port to port" was 180 ships.

As noted in the above video, only 78 of these 180 ply international trade. This is down from nearly 200 in 1990, as seen in the chart below:

A partial explanation for the decrease in such international shipping is the increase in capacity of tankers and container ships. Another explanation is the higher cost of operating under U.S. law as opposed to operating under a foreign "flag of convenience."

Of the 180, 73 are tankers, many of which are not deemed "militarily useful."

Nine of the 180 ships have gross tonnage of under 2000 tons. Most of the latter are not considered as being "militarily useful." Gross tonnage (GT)\is a function of the volume of all of a ship's enclosed spaces (from keel to funnel) measured to the outside of the hull framing."

Here's the MARAD list of U.S. flagged privately owned ships most of which operate from U.S. port to U.S. port, subject to the Jones Act:



As part of trying to maintain a U.S. flag merchant fleet, MARAD operates the Maritime Security Program Fleet:
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 requires that the Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, to establish a fleet of active, commercially viable, militarily useful, privately-owned vessels to meet national defense and other security requirements. All Maritime Security Program operating agreements are currently filled by 60 ships. In the event that an operating agreement should become available, the Maritime Administration would publish a notice in the Federal Register requesting applicants. A copy of the Maritime Security Program application is listed below. Participating operators are required to make their ships and commercial transportation resources available upon request by the Secretary of Defense during times of war or national emergency.
Click on image to enlarge

You might note that MSP ships also appear on the MARAD list.

In addition to merchant shipping, the Military Sealift Command maintains an inventory of ships:


Some of these ships also appear in that MARAD merchant list. I note this to ensure the same ships are not counted twice or three times as assets available if needed.

Concerns? Suppose we need more ships to carry things needed for national security? We are short merchant mariners, as noted by the GAO here:
Stakeholders GAO spoke to identified two primary challenges in sustaining the internationally trading U.S.-flag fleet for national defense needs.
• First, even with the annual MSP stipend, maintaining the financial viability of U.S.-flag vessels is a challenge. This challenge largely results from the higher costs of operating a U.S.-flag vessel. According to U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) officials, the additional cost of operating a U.S. flag vessel compared to a foreign-flag vessel has increased—from about $4.8 million annually in 2009 and 2010 to about $6.2 to $6.5 million currently— making it harder for such vessels to remain financially viable. In addition,
government cargo volumes have fallen in recent years. In response to this challenge, Congress increased the MSP stipend from $3.5 million per vessel for fiscal year 2016 to $4.99 million per vessel for fiscal year 2017. MARAD officials said this increase has temporarily stabilized the financial situation of MSP vessel operators. However, MARAD officials stated trends in operating costs and government  cargo suggest this will remain an ongoing challenge.
• Second, a potential shortage of U.S.-citizen mariners available to crew the government-owned reserve fleet during a crisis is a challenge. DOD counts on mariners working on U.S.-flag vessels to crew this fleet when activated. A MARAD working group recently estimated a shortage of over 1,800 mariners in the case of a drawn-out military effort, although it also recommended data improvements to increase the accuracy of the count of available mariners.

What difference does it make? Mahan's view is that the purpose of a navy is that "Navies exist for the protection of commerce" - and what happens when the ships carrying your commerce are not of your own nation? You end up providing open lines of commerce for "free riders" who garner the benefit of free trade routes without incurring the costs of maintaining them. Under the U.S.'s post-WWII leadership, commerce among nations ballooned - China's resurgence has been, in large part, due to its embrace of international trade and its use of the trade routes protected by the United States Navy and its allies.
The first and most obvious light in which the sea presents itself from the political and social point of view is that of a great highway; or better, perhaps, of a wide common, over which men may pass in all directions, but on which some well-worn paths show that controlling reasons have led them to choose certain lines of travel rather than others. These lines of travel are called trade routes; and the reasons which have determined them are to be sought in the history of the world.

Notwithstanding all the familiar and unfamiliar dangers of the sea, both travel and traffic by water have always been easier and cheaper than by land. The commercial greatness of Holland was due not only to her shipping at sea, but also to the numerous tranquil water-ways which gave such cheap and easy access to her own interior and to that of Germany. This advantage of carriage by water over that by land was yet more marked in a period when roads were few and very bad, wars frequent and society unsettled, as was the case two hundred years ago. Sea traffic then went in peril of robbers, but was nevertheless safer and quicker than that by land. A Dutch writer of that time, estimating the chances of his country in a war with England, notices among other things that the water-ways of England failed to penetrate the country sufficiently; therefore, the roads being bad, goods from one part of the kingdom to the other must go by sea, and be exposed to capture by the way. As regards purely internal trade, this danger has generally disappeared at the present day. In most civilized countries, now, the destruction or disappearance of the coasting trade would only be an inconvenience, although water transit is still the cheaper. Nevertheless, as late as the wars of the French Republic and the First Empire, those who are familiar with the history of the period, and the light naval literature that has grown up around it, know how constant is the mention of convoys stealing from point to point along the French coast, although the sea swarmed with English cruisers and there were good inland roads.

Under modern conditions, however, home trade is but a part of the business of a country bordering on the sea. Foreign necessaries or luxuries must be brought to its ports, either in its own or in foreign ships, which will return, bearing in exchange the products of the country, whether they be the fruits of the earth or the works of men's hands; and it is the wish of every nation that this shipping business should be done by its own vessels. The ships that thus sail to and fro must have secure ports to which to return, and must, as far as possible, be followed by the protection of their country throughout the voyage.

This protection in time of war must be extended by armed shipping. The necessity of a navy, in the restricted sense of the word, springs, therefore, from the existence of a peaceful shipping, and disappears with it, except in the case of a nation which has aggressive tendencies, and keeps up a navy merely as a branch of the military establishment. As the United States has at present no aggressive purposes, and as its merchant service has disappeared, the dwindling of the armed fleet and general lack of interest in it are strictly logical consequences. When for any reason sea trade is again found to pay, a large enough shipping interest will reappear to compel the revival of the war fleet. It is possible that when a canal route through the Central-American Isthmus is seen to be a near certainty, the aggressive impulse may be strong enough to lead to the same result. This is doubtful, however, because a peaceful, gain-loving nation is not far-sighted, and far-sightedness is needed for adequate military preparation, especially in these days.
We allowed our international merchant fleets to decline because it allowed for the lower cost import and export of goods on foreign hulls. It depended on the good faith participation of the entire sea-going world in maintaining good faith trade. Now, what happens if a great power develops a naval force that is not designed to allow for the continuation of these great trade routes but seeks to protect its own agenda in nearby waters - as in the South China Sea. What if that state, which engages in spirited trade with both the U.S. and the rest of the world decides to shut off the use of its state-owned "merchant ship" from that trade and attempts to create "no sail" zones for the merchant and/or naval vessels of other states. What if this power is used to coerce other states not to intervene in protection of allied states in its "sphere of influence?"

We need both a larger navy and an larger, well-manned merchant marine as a preventive measure against such blackmail efforts.



Monday, May 20, 2019

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 10 April - 15 May 2019 and HORN OF AFRICA/GULF OF GUINEA/ SOUTHEAST ASIA: Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (PAWW) Report for 9 - 15 May 2019

Special note at the beginning of the Worldwide Threat to Shipping is a warning about Iran:
MARAD U.S. MARITIME ADVISORY 2019-006: Threat Type: Threats to U.S. Interests from Iran Geographic Area: Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, Bab-el-Mandeb, and Red Sea. Reference: U.S.
Maritime Advisory 2019-004. Issue: Reporting indicates heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against U.S. forces and interests. Since early May, there is an increased possibility that Iran and/or its regional proxies could take action against U.S. and partner interests, including oil production infrastructure, after recently threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz. Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or U.S. military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab-el Mandeb Strait, or the Persian Gulf.
And another:
MARAD U.S. MARITIME ADVISORY 2019-005: Threat Type: GPS Interference. Geographic Area: Eastern Mediterranean and Red Seas. This revised Advisory cancels U.S. Maritime Advisory 2018-014. Reference: U.S. Maritime Alerts 2018-004A, 2018-004B, 2018-008A. Issue: Multiple instances of significant GPS interference continue to be reported by vessels and aircraft operating in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. These reports have been concentrated near Port Said, Egypt, the Suez Canal, and in the vicinity of the Republic of Cyprus. Instances of similar interference were also reported between Hadera, Israel and Beirut, Lebanon and near Jeddah Port, Saudi Arabia. This interference is resulting in lost or otherwise altered GPS signals affecting bridge navigation, GPS-based timing and communications equipment.



Friday, May 17, 2019

Friday Film: "The Fighting Lady" (1944)

USS Yorktown (CV-10) (second carrier with that name) at war in the Pacific in a "NewsDrama."

I must note that no sea movie is ever just about "a ship" which is just a big hunk of metal until put to life by a crew. Here the crew was splendid.

You need a little over an hour to watch this gem:



Narrated by Robert Taylor who served as a flight instructor for the Navy.

Monday, May 13, 2019

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 3 April - 8 May 2019 and HORN OF AFRICA/GULF OF GUINEA/ SOUTHEAST ASIA: Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (PAWW) Report for 2 - 8 May 2019

U.S. Navy Office of Naval I... by on Scribd


Back

Back from my adventure, at least for a little while but perhaps longer.

I was hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail and managed to strain my left Achilles tendon. My medical guide says to stop doing what you were doing that caused the injury so after plodding limping along for a couple of days, when I got to a good stopping place I called Enterprise to come pick me up, rented a car and drove home.

It was a tough call - I wanted to stay on the trail, but the reality of such an injury is that you can only make it worse by pushing on, so I let my head overcome my heart and left the Trail.

Don't know yet how long it will take to recover, I know I didn't rupture the tendon but will seek medical advice in the next few days. Meanwhile, it's rest, ice, compress and elevate for me.

The AT is great, the other hikers are great, but as so many learn, it only takes a slight misstep to cause an injury that sends you home.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Dream Chasing

I am off on adventures which means that posts on this site are going to become more irregular in timing and numbers. Please enjoy the older posts and visit some of excellent Navy and national security blogs and sites out there.

Not quite sure how long these adventures will last, but be assured that I am well in both body and spirit and having a great time!

There are periods of your life when everything opens up to allow you to fulfill a dream, and this is one of those moments for me.

When time and opportunity allow, I will be posting, but not daily.

Be of good cheer and when you find a dream to chase, go after it with all your heart and soul!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Gulf of Guinea Counter-Piracy- Regional Agreement

Interregional Institute for Maritime Safety (ISMI) Empowers Maritime Officers To Fight Piracy In The Gulf Of Guinea:
The Interregional Institute for Maritime Safety (ISMI) has deepened
the capacity of maritime officers to fight against piracy on the seas.

Participants were brought together from Benin, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Liberia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Côte d'Ivoire.
***
The Regional Coordinator of the Action of the State of the Sea, Guillaume de Beauregard, noted that the threat of piracy is still high and prevalent hence, the need to empower officers with the necessary ability to tackle the canker on sea.

"From 2017 to 2018, 40% of the 180 to 201 attacks worldwide were in the Gulf of Guinea. All the kidnappings that took place in 2018 took place in the Gulf of Guinea,” he stated.

According to him, the first figures for 2019 are rather encouraging, though all specialists agree that the Gulf of Guinea remains a hot spot for piracy in the world.
Interesting. The area needs a little less talk, though, and a lot more action.

Somali Pirates: Fishing Vessels Attacked Off Somali Coast

Seems that Somali pirates are up to their old tricks, grabbing a dhow to use as a "mother ship" and sending skiffs out to attack. EU NAVFOR reports:
EU NAVFOR photo
On 21 April, fishing vessels FV Adria and FV Txori Argi were attacked by suspected pirates in the Indian Ocean, 280 NM off the coast of Somalia. The piracy attacks were thwarted, and the crew and vessels remained safe, thanks to the application of Best Management Practices (BMP) protection measures by the Masters, the crews and the private security teams embarked on both fishing vessels.
EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation Atalanta confirms these attacks. It is likely that the attacks were facilitated by a mothership, which was reportedly seized by armed men on 19 April off the central Somali Coast.
EU NAVFOR subsequently dispatched its Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircrafts to search the area. In addition, EU NAVFOR flagship ESPS Navarra left the port in Mombasa in order to proceed into the area.
On 23 April, ESPS NAVARA successfully intercepted and boarded the dhow being used as a mothership.
The operation is still ongoing, and more details will be provided upon completion.
EU NAVFOR remains committed to deterring, preventing and suppressing piracy and emphasizes that the Maritime Industry must adhere to BMP measures in order to maximize the safety of the ship and their crews whilst transiting the high-risk area.
Hmmm. Looks like Perry-class frigate was useful in the operation, Spanish FFG Navarra. Too bad the US doesn't have something like them.

Hat tip to Lee.

U.S. Politics, Somalia, and the Very Best of Intentions

A must read article on some aspects of "humanitarian interventions" that get overlooked Here's What Rep. Ilhan Omar Gets Wrong About 'Black Hawk Down'
Task Force Ranger was the 1993 military effort ordered by President Bill Clinton to capture Aidid and his lieutenants so the U.N. could deliver food and medical aid without fear of being attacked or killed by Aidid’s forces. The American soldiers Omar attacked in her tweet — the men of Task Force Ranger –weren’t sent to Somalia for fame or fortune. They weren’t there because of a deep desire to visit the God-forsaken nation of Somalia. They were deployed to support peacekeepers who were desperate to rescue the country from starvation and the ravages of civil war. To do that, they had to capture the men responsible for it.
What gets forgotten, is that the original intention - to feed and protect the starving masses gets lost in the stories of those "saved" - thus Rep. Omar  seems to know only  the tales told by her elders who fled Somalia, who repeat the  stories of violence, some of it by "invaders" and not the tales of UN forces and US forces coming with food and medicine. Her bitterness seems largely second hand.

She doesn't seem to know that some of the first pirating of vessel off the Somali coast was done to ships carrying relief supplies and that those hijacked supplies were used to increase the power and wealth of some of same warlords who caused many of the problems in Somalia as it turned into a failed state.

Bitterness toward rescuers is not unusual in this world. Something about "biting the hand that feeds you."

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter

The Empty Tomb, 1889, Mikhail Nesterov

Matthew 28King James Version (KJV)

28 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:

4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

Friday, April 19, 2019

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 13 March - 17 April 2019 and HORN OF AFRICA/GULF OF GUINEA/ SOUTHEAST ASIA: Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (PAWW) Report for 11 - 17 April 2019

U.S. Navy Office of Naval I... by on Scribd



U.S. Navy Office of Naval I... by on Scribd


Friday Film: "Top Gun: The Real Story"

Back in the days when the first "Top Gun" movie came out, if I had gotten a dollar for every overly aggressive litigation attorney (this was in Texas in those days, where some old school attorney occasionally engaged in fisticuffs in the halls of the courthouse) who told me that he "could have been like those guys," it would have made for a nice nest egg.

Well, I hate to disappoint you, but real life often varies from the movies. Professional Navy fighter pilots are smart, tough and a lot of them look like the guy or gal who offers to sell you insurance. Most of them are probably under 6 feet tall, because their offices aren't all that big. Most are in reasonable shape. And all of them work really, really hard to master their job. That being said, a select few do get to go to Fallon, Nevada - in the high desert about an hour from Reno sitting on the "Loneliest Road in America" - to receive training that will allow them to go back to their squadrons to train other pilots in tactics and things. Another select few will take the training and remain at Fallon to instruct while flying and learning. Very much "train the trainer."

All fighter pilots want to be the best, but they also want to be surrounded by other pilots who also want to be the best. And, as you will see, the training is not just for pilots.

Here's a slightly dated documentary about the Fighter Weapons School:



Saturday, April 13, 2019

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: "The Navy Comes Through" (1943)

Interesting story involving Navy Armed Guards on merchant shipping in World War II from Lux Radio Theater based on a short story and movie.





Monday, April 08, 2019

Revisited: The Need for a Lighter, Faster, More Potent and Less Expensive "Green Water" Navy Surface Force

As briefly mentioned during our 7 April Midrats here, a discussion of how to effectively use our Navy Reserve for maritime purposes touched on Trump's Gunboats by Claude Berube and contributed to by me. I think this part of the discussion begins around the 46:21 point.

A key element of growing our fleet without breaking the budget (more than it is already), is distributed lethality among a larger force, a part of which should be designed and trained for warfare in the "green water" areas of the world (where most sea battles historically have been fought) and procured from existing U.S. shipbuilders at relatively minimal cost. It is that area the LCS was supposed to operate in before it was designed by a committee and became whatever it is. Let me offer up some quotes from the Gunboats article:

... It may be time for the U.S. Navy to go smaller in order to get bigger, sooner while waiting for the warm lines of present production to turn hot on longer lead time ships. The question of how to do this has been answered before in our history: use commercially proven hulls and adapt them to Navy use in nearly every conflict from the American Revolution to World War II. This surge in smaller, commercially-built vessels not only has historical precedence but satisfies growing global maritime challenges as well as domestic employment.
***
... Were billion dollar warships necessary for combating piracy off the Horn of Africa? In a Navy where the only tool is a hammer most every solution is an overly-excessive naval force. .... Instead of continuing to use the wrong tool for the job, it is logical to develop a diverse force of smaller naval ships to handle numerous, smaller missions, leaving the blue water navy to pursue the larger, vital warfighting role that it was designed to do. Smaller navy vessels working in squadrons may be more cost-effective in responding to global maritime incidents, patrolling coasts, and deterring similar forces. While the threat of Somali piracy has diminished the destabilization of other economies and nations could cause new threats to shipping to emerge as off Venezuela. Larger threats continue to loom as small Iranian boats swarm U.S. Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz and China’s maritime militia in the South China Sea have harassed ships in the past. Rather than offering larger, single targets of opportunity, dispersed squadrons of smaller vessels provide greater opportunities to counter asymmetric operations.
***
In his July 2012 USNI Proceedings article “Payloads over Platforms:
Charting a New Course,” then Chief of Naval Operation Admiral Greenert wrote, “We need to move from ‘luxury-car’ platforms—with their built-in capabilities—toward dependable ‘trucks’ that can handle a changing payload selection. “Sea trucks” is the perfect way in which to picture arming the smaller ship force. There already exist large numbers of “bolt on” modular weapons systems and sensor packages that could allow a squadron of such ships to present a challenge to any potential foe, ranging from anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles to various form of autonomous vehicles with many mission capabilities. The addition of helicopters to the mix adds both a counter-surface and ASW capability; the same is true for drones. A lightweight modular force means that a small squadron could form a formidable presence at a relatively low cost.
***
It's not like this is new concept here or at other locations, see, e.g. Psst.Psst. Wanna Distribute Your Lethality on the Cheap? and the links therein:
The underlying goal, of course, was to suggest a way of getting lots more platforms out there - with lots more weapons and capabilities. Cheaper, faster, and, if not better, certainly "good enough."
One problem has been that the Navy leadership and Congress have become very risk averse - and they dread the idea that smaller ships may be more vulnerable than bigger ships, which might result in the politically unacceptable loss of personnel. If "politics ain't beanbag" as Mr. Dooley put it, these folks need to understand that neither is war fighting. Our young officers and sailors understand that, especially after our involvement in the Middle East in which we have been placing our people at risk almost continuously since the "tanker war" began in 1987.

What we owe these volunteers is a large enough force 'right-sized" to meet the existing and potential threats to the areas of the world that are vital to our national interests. To accomplish this, we need to be bold enough to allow the folks who can understand and apply current technology to the problem of maintaining vital sea lines of communication. Armed UAVs operating in swarms from small decks may be answer to some issues, wise and wide use of UAVs, USVs, and UUVs may allow for especially good threat warning and targeting for a flotilla of small missile carrying high speed craft or other craft that carry lots of missiles and drones. We need to put good minds into brainstorming these and other possibilities.

And we need to do it now, before we get locked into being all "big decks" and having to deal with the risks that putting so many eggs in so few baskets that the loss of one ship spells catastrophe for the fleet.

Captain Wayne Hughes discussed some of this on Midrats back 6 years ago:


Nothing wrong with going back and revisiting Sea Fighter or even the hydrofoil missile boats of the past, both of which are pictured above.

**updated to fix a portion that went adrift during the original post writing

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 28 February - 3 April 2019 and HORN OF AFRICA/GULF OF GUINEA/ SOUTHEAST ASIA: Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (PAWW) Report for 28 March - 3 April 2019




Saturday, April 06, 2019

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: "1984"

George Orwell's classic with David Niven as Winston Smith.

Beware the "Thought Police" ...





Double plus good!

On Midrats 7 April 2019 Episode 483: Quō Vādis, USNR?

Please join us on 7 April 2019 at 5pm Eastern for Midrats Episode 483: Quō Vādis, USNR?
Almost everyone who follows military issues can clearly point to what the Army Reserve, National Guard, USAFR, ANG, and USMC Reserves do – their individual and unit deployments have been highly visible so far in the Long War … but what about the Naval Reserve?


What are they doing? Are they being best utilized to purpose? As we re-look at the challenge of a maritime power facing emerging powers on the high seas, do we need to reassess the last few decades of policy, practice, and procedures in utilizing the available manpower and expertise that is and could reside in the US Navy Reserve?

Our guests this Sunday, April 7th from 5-6pm Eastern will be Chris Rawley, CAPT USNR and Claude Berube, LCDR USNR.

Chris Rawley is the CEO of Harvest Returns, a platform for investing in agriculture, and is Reserve Chief of Staff for Commander, Naval Surface Forces, helping to oversee 3,800 reserve sailors supporting fleet units around the world. During his 26 year military career, Rawley has filled a variety of leadership positions in naval, expeditionary, and joint special operations units afloat and ashore. He has deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, throughout Africa, the Persian Gulf, and Western Pacific. Rawley has a degree from Texas A&M University, earned an MBA at George Washington University, and is a graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and Joint Forces Staff College.

Dr. Claude Berube teaches at the US Naval Academy and has published several books. He recently returned from his third deployment as an officer in the USNR. He has worked as a defense contractor, as a civilian with the Office of Naval Intelligence, and a staffer to two US Senators.
Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at Spreaker.

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Friday Film: "The Road to the Wall" (1962)

Ah, the Cold War - 24 hour alerts, bombers on standby, bomb shelters under houses, tank commanders at the Fulda Gap. And the Navy standing ready.

The effect of the differences between the promise of socialist and communist paradises and the grim reality caused (and continues to cause) mass migrations of people flowing away from such "people's republics."

Not surprisingly, the leaders of these alleged Utopian societies decided that only by halting the flow of such refugees could the people come to appreciate how splendid life could be under the "guidance" of those - um- "enlightened ones" who knew the true path.

Thus, everything that could be done to keep people in was done, fences, armed border guards looking inward with orders to shoot to kill, mine fields, travel passes, informers . . .

But there were always defectors . . . so there were more walls, including the Berlin Wall the ultimate symbol of the Cold War.







By the way, before the Wall dividing Berlin, there was an effort by the Soviets to blockade Berlin - shutting off all access by land routes. This effort was thwarted by the Berlin Airlift.

If you have the time, here's an excellent film about the effort it took to defeat the Soviet power grab, featuring Montgomery Clift and Paul Douglas and many of the real airmen, including Navy crews, and allied forces that flew some 28,000 missions to keep West Berlin fed for almost a year - from June 24, 1948 to May 12, 1949 - "The Big Lift" -


Saturday, March 30, 2019

Saturday Is Old Radio Day; Adventures by Morse "The Girl on Shipwreck Island"

About:
Captain Bart Friday was a globe-trotting San Francisco-based private
Carlton Morse, the creator of this series
investigator, portrayed during the series by Elliott Lewis, David Ellis and Russell Thorson. Friday's sidekick from Texas, Skip Turner, was played mostly by Jack Edwards and occasionally by Barton Yarborough.


The tales covered such areas as espionage, kidnapping and murder, along with secret Nazi bases, snake worshipers and voodoo
****
While traveling from French Indo-China to Australia, the engine on Bart and Skip's plane conks out, forcing them to land on a small island in the South China Sea. Initially, they believe themselves to be alone, but it isn't long before they witness the murder of a British sailor, one of a small number of castaways who recently survived a deadly hurricane at sea. The murder has been committed by a Spanish pirate, complete with bandana, who seems mighty proud of his skill with a gun. In addition to the mayhem on this supposedly deserted island they experience the strange allure of a cockney serving girl named Gracie, who seems to be the object of much jealousy and intrigue.

Three parts












On Midrats 31 March 2019 - Episode 482: Who Will Run the Navy of the 2020s?

Please join us at 5pm EDT for Midrats Episode 482: Who Will Run the Navy of the 2020s?
The generation that will lead Sailors forward over what is shaping up
to be the most challenging environment at sea for the USN since the 1980s is just now rolling in to their first shore duty or out of it.

What culture and experiences marked their formative junior officer years? How will they change the fluid culture of our navy? Will their habits in writing, discussing, and experimenting differ than previous generations of officers, or just blend in with long running trends?

Do their view of priorities differ from the mid-level and senior level leadership.

Our guest for the full hour to address these topics and whatever else pops out of the rabbit hole will be Jimmy Drennan.

When he's not masquerading as The Salty Millennial, Jimmy Drennan is a Surface Warfare Officer assigned to U.S. Central Command, and is President of the Center for International Maritime Security.
Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at Spreaker.

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Did you know it's National Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day? I didn't either

National Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Day
Let Us Tell the Story of a Generation....


For all who served whether in country, at sea or in the air, thanks! Your country called and you answered.


Friday Films: "Communism (1952)" and "A Time for Choosing (1964)"

An old Coronet film of the type shown by substitute teachers back in the day, when the regular teacher had gone off for the day - this one on a topic of great interest in those days - the threat of communism.

Like a zombie, just when you'd think the Marxist fantasy is dead, it seems to keep rising from the grave.



In 1964,Senator Barry Goldwater was the Republican candidate for president, running against Lyndon Johnson who had been sworn in as president following the assassination of President Kennedy. These were tumultuous times. Ronald Reagan, then just an actor, gave "The Speech" in support of Goldwater - and launched Reagan's own political career, with his ultimate election as president in 1980.
Ronald Reagan will be remembered for leading the United States during a time of tremendous international transition - the demise of the Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall coming down, and the end of the Cold War. Mary Landrieu




Thursday, March 28, 2019

78 Ships - U.S. Merchant Marine - the What? The Who?



As of 15 March 2019, the inventory of U.S. flagged merchant ships of "over 1000 gross tons that carry cargo from port to port" was 180 ships.

As noted in the above video, only 78 of these 180 ply international trade. This down from nearly 200 in 1990, as seen in the chart below:

A partial explanation for the decrease in such international shipping is the increase in capacity of tankers and container ships. Another explanation is the higher cost of operating under U.S. law as opposed to operating under a foreign "flag of convenience."

Of the 180, 73 are tankers, many of which are not deemed "militarily useful."

Nine of the 180 ships have gross tonnage of under 2000 tons. Most of the latter are not considered as being "militarily useful." Gross tonnage (GT)\is a function of the volume of all of a ship's enclosed spaces (from keel to funnel) measured to the outside of the hull framing."

Here's the MARAD list of U.S. flagged privately owned ships most of which operate from U.S. port to U.S. port, subject to the Jones Act:



As part of trying to maintain a U.S. flag merchant fleet, MARAD operates the Maritime Security Program Fleet:
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 requires that the Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, to establish a fleet of active, commercially viable, militarily useful, privately-owned vessels to meet national defense and other security requirements. All Maritime Security Program operating agreements are currently filled by 60 ships. In the event that an operating agreement should become available, the Maritime Administration would publish a notice in the Federal Register requesting applicants. A copy of the Maritime Security Program application is listed below. Participating operators are required to make their ships and commercial transportation resources available upon request by the Secretary of Defense during times of war or national emergency.
Click on image to enlarge

You might note that MSP ships also appear on the MARAD list.

In addition to merchant shipping, the Military Sealift Command maintains an inventory of ships:


Some of these ships also appear in that MARAD merchant list. I note this to ensure the same ships are not counted twice or three times as assets available if needed.

Concerns? Suppose we need more ships to carry things needed for national security? We are short merchant mariners, as noted by the GAO here:
Stakeholders GAO spoke to identified two primary challenges in sustaining the
internationally trading U.S.-flag fleet for national defense needs.
• First, even with the annual MSP stipend, maintaining the financial viability of
U.S.-flag vessels is a challenge. This challenge largely results from the
higher costs of operating a U.S.-flag vessel. According to U.S. Maritime
Administration (MARAD) officials, the additional cost of operating a U.S. flag
vessel compared to a foreign-flag vessel has increased—from about $4.8
million annually in 2009 and 2010 to about $6.2 to $6.5 million currently—
making it harder for such vessels to remain financially viable. In addition,
government cargo volumes have fallen in recent years. In response to this
challenge, Congress increased the MSP stipend from $3.5 million per vessel
for fiscal year 2016 to $4.99 million per vessel for fiscal year 2017. MARAD
officials said this increase has temporarily stabilized the financial situation of
MSP vessel operators. However, MARAD officials stated trends in operating
costs and government cargo suggest this will remain an ongoing challenge.
• Second, a potential shortage of U.S.-citizen mariners available to crew the
government-owned reserve fleet during a crisis is a challenge. DOD counts
on mariners working on U.S.-flag vessels to crew this fleet when activated. A
MARAD working group recently estimated a shortage of over 1,800 mariners
in the case of a drawn-out military effort, although it also recommended data
improvements to increase the accuracy of the count of available mariners.

What difference does it make? Mahan's view is that the purpose of a navy is that "Navies exist for the protection of commerce" - and what happens when the ships carrying your commerce are not of your own nation? You end up providing open lines of commerce for "free riders" who garner the benefit of free trade routes without incurring the costs of maintaining them. Under the U.S.'s post-WWII leadership, commerce among nations ballooned - China's resurgence has been, in large part, due to its embrace of international trade and its use of the trade routes protected by the United States Navy and its allies.
The first and most obvious light in which the sea presents itself from the political and social point of view is that of a great highway; or better, perhaps, of a wide common, over which men may pass in all directions, but on which some well-worn paths show that controlling reasons have led them to choose certain lines of travel rather than others. These lines of travel are called trade routes; and the reasons which have determined them are to be sought in the history of the world.

Notwithstanding all the familiar and unfamiliar dangers of the sea, both travel and traffic by water have always been easier and cheaper than by land. The commercial greatness of Holland was due not only to her shipping at sea, but also to the numerous tranquil water-ways which gave such cheap and easy access to her own interior and to that of Germany. This advantage of carriage by water over that by land was yet more marked in a period when roads were few and very bad, wars frequent and society unsettled, as was the case two hundred years ago. Sea traffic then went in peril of robbers, but was nevertheless safer and quicker than that by land. A Dutch writer of that time, estimating the chances of his country in a war with England, notices among other things that the water-ways of England failed to penetrate the country sufficiently; therefore, the roads being bad, goods from one part of the kingdom to the other must go by sea, and be exposed to capture by the way. As regards purely internal trade, this danger has generally disappeared at the present day. In most civilized countries, now, the destruction or disappearance of the coasting trade would only be an inconvenience, although water transit is still the cheaper. Nevertheless, as late as the wars of the French Republic and the First Empire, those who are familiar with the history of the period, and the light naval literature that has grown up around it, know how constant is the mention of convoys stealing from point to point along the French coast, although the sea swarmed with English cruisers and there were good inland roads.

Under modern conditions, however, home trade is but a part of the business of a country bordering on the sea. Foreign necessaries or luxuries must be brought to its ports, either in its own or in foreign ships, which will return, bearing in exchange the products of the country, whether they be the fruits of the earth or the works of men's hands; and it is the wish of every nation that this shipping business should be done by its own vessels. The ships that thus sail to and fro must have secure ports to which to return, and must, as far as possible, be followed by the protection of their country throughout the voyage.

This protection in time of war must be extended by armed shipping. The necessity of a navy, in the restricted sense of the word, springs, therefore, from the existence of a peaceful shipping, and disappears with it, except in the case of a nation which has aggressive tendencies, and keeps up a navy merely as a branch of the military establishment. As the United States has at present no aggressive purposes, and as its merchant service has disappeared, the dwindling of the armed fleet and general lack of interest in it are strictly logical consequences. When for any reason sea trade is again found to pay, a large enough shipping interest will reappear to compel the revival of the war fleet. It is possible that when a canal route through the Central-American Isthmus is seen to be a near certainty, the aggressive impulse may be strong enough to lead to the same result. This is doubtful, however, because a peaceful, gain-loving nation is not far-sighted, and far-sightedness is needed for adequate military preparation, especially in these days.
We allowed our international merchant fleets to decline because it allowed for the lower cost import and export of goods on foreign hulls. It depended on the good faith participation of the entire sea-going world in maintaining good faith trade. Now, what happens if a great power develops a naval force that is not designed to allow for the continuation of these great trade routes but seeks to protect its own agenda in nearby waters - as in the South China Sea. What if that state, which engages in spirited trade with both the U.S. and the rest of the world decides to shut off the use of its state-owned "merchant ship" from that trade and attempts to create "no sail" zones for the merchant and/or naval vessels of other states. What if this power is used to coerce other states not to intervene in protection of allied states in its "sphere of influence?"

We need both a larger navy and an larger, well-manned merchant marine as a preventive measure against such blackmail efforts.


Friday, March 15, 2019

Friday Film: "What's Under the Ocean?"

Must be from the early 1960's and seemingly intended for children of some sort.



More recent video with some recent science about water under the water:





Saturday, March 09, 2019

On Midrats 10 March 2019 - Episode 479: John Jackson: One Nation Under Drones, with John Jackson

Please join us at 5pm (EDT) on 10 March 2019 for Midrats Episode 479 - One Nation Under Drones, with John Jackson
How are unmanned systems and the increasing use of robots from the kitchen to the battlefield impacting how our personal, professional, and national lives are being run?

What are the obvious and not so obvious places they are already a dominate presence today, and where are trends leading us?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss the issues he raises in his book, One Nation Under Drones will be John E. Jackson, CAPT, USN (Ret.).

Professor Jackson has served at the Naval War College for more than 20 years, teaching
in the areas of national security decision-making, logistics, and unmanned and robotic
systems. He holds the E.A. Sperry Chair of Unmanned and Robotic Systems and lectures frequently. His latest book “One Nation, Under Drones" was published by the U.S. Naval Institute in December 2018. He is the program manager for the Chief of Naval Operation's professional reading program. Additionally, he serves on the President's Action Group and as chairman of the 9-11 Memorial Committee. A retired Navy Captain, he served in supply and logistics assignments both afloat and ashore retiring in 1998 after 27 years of active service.
Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at Spreaker.

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.